For a long time the legal position of Roman Catholics in England had been exceedingly precarious. Outrageous laws against them had been enacted in the passion and intolerance of a previous age. Although these laws had, in large part, been allowed to drop out of actual use, with characteristic English conservatism they were allowed to stand on the Statute Book. They thus became ready weapons in the hands of private avarice or revenge, as is shown in the speech (pp. 111-115). In 1778 the injustice and disgrace of this state of things became intolerable to fairminded men; and a Relief Bill, annulling the worst of the penal acts, was passed without even a call for a division in either House, so unanimous was the conviction concerning it (p. 118). But the old-time fanaticism of the masses had only been slumbering. At the passage of the Relief Bill it suddenly flashed again into flame. The - Protestant Association was formed, an organization pledged to bring about the re-enactment of the annulled law and to prevent any further measures of relief. Under such stimulus madness spread far and fast. Rioting soon began in Edinburgh and Glasgow, where furious mobs destroyed the houses and property of Catholics and of those suspected of sympathizing with them. After months of fitful disorder in various parts of the realm, matters culminated in June, 1780, in an attempt which recalls a very recent chapter in our own history but with results more immediately tragic than in our case. A monster petition, calling for immediate repeal of the Relief Bill, was prepared; and Lord George Gordon, a leader in the agitation, undertook to lay it before Parliament in person, and at the head of an army of his followers. On the afternoon of June 2, three great bodies of men, wearing blue cockades and marching by different roads, met in front of the Parliament building just as the Houses were assembling. The petition was presented as planned. The roaring mob surged in, filled all the courts, stairways, and lobbies, insulted and outraged members, and for many hours held the Houses in a state of siege. At nightfall it dispersed to begin its work of pillage and destruction elsewhere. The five days and nights that followed were a veritable reign of terror. All authority was paralyzed. The city was completely at

the mercy of the mob. For an admirable picture of the scenes in London, the student is referred to Dickens's Barnaby Rudge. The history of the whole matter may be read in Lecky's England in the Eighteenth Century, chapter xiii.

Page 109. Bristol had sympathized with the “No Popery movement, and had had its share of disorder as well. There is grave irony, therefore, in Burke's remarks here and on page 116.

Page 111, 16. pious, in the old Roman sense of reverent attitude toward all natural claims, whether from above, or around, or beneath us; here used with special reference to the claims of humanity and justice. Students of Latin should look up in this connection the various connotations of Virgil's pius Æneas.

20, 21. the saying mass. The student will notice the change in this idiom since Burke's time. Wherever the gerund has become so nearly like a common noun as to take an adjective modifier, the noun-construction is now commonly extended to its object as well — “saying mass,” or else “ the saying of mass.”

PAGE 112, 18. Revolution. See note to p. 42, 1. 33–35.

Page 113, 27-30. The children of Catholic families were commonly educated in France, under circumstances not at all calcu. lated to inspire them patriotism and a love for free government.

Page 114, 9. For the Talbots, consult an Encyclopædia or Biographical Dictionary.

Page 116, 21 ff. Writers and speakers of the last century had a notable fashion of diversifying their compositions with what they called “characters,” — elaborate and rhetorical descriptions of persons,

an example of which we have already encountered in this speech.

An academic flavor and fulsomeness almost always characterize these passages, and in this instance these qualities are the more conspicuous because of the general simplicity and directness of the context.

Page 117, 4. peculium --- " a special fund for private and personal uses.” The student will be interested to trace the origin of this word from the Latin pecus, and the development of meaning in its English cognates and derivatives, peculiar, pecuniary, peculate, and fee. Consult the Latin Lexicon and the Etymological Dictionary.


Burke : Speech at Bristol.

13, 14. The “ Nullum Tempus Act." See Lecky, Index, s.v.

Page 121, 6. The most Protestant part of this Protest-
ant Empire was, of course, the American Colonies. Compare
what Burke says of them in his Speech on Conciliation, p. 20 of
this volume.

PAGE 125, 10-14. The persecutions under Philip of Spain,
carried out by the bloody Alva. See Motley's Rise of the Dutch
Republic. Many craftsmen of the Low Countries found refuge
in England, and planted their trades there.

33. Austria, as the successor of the “Holy Roman Empire,”
was the imperial court of Europe. Russia was not yet accorded
that rank; the French and German Empires were yet to be.

PAGE 126, 11. The minister was Necker, the famous banker
and financier of France.

PAGE 127, 8–12. This was Thurlow. See note to p. 22,
1. 25, 26.

Page 132, 29. our resolves the resolution refusing to re-
peal the Relief Bill. See p. 131, 1. 7 ff.

PAGE 133, 4, 6. read three times, passed the three formal
readings which mark the regular stages in the progress of an Act
through the House. See Note on Forms of Procedure, p. 323.
9. offences of presumption

presumed offences.
Page 134, 5. lean more to the Crown, support the kingly
power and prerogative. See note to p. 113, 1. 27–30.

25. “No man ever touched with such force that proud and cruel
spirit which actuates a people who hold others in subjection. It
was just the spirit of the Athenian mob toward their colonies,
and of every Roman toward the provinces of the empire, and it
was, no doubt, one principal cause of the American war.” – PRO-

Page 135, 31 ff. An expansion of his own famous utterance
in the Speech on Conciliation (p. 32): “I do not know the method
of drawing up an indictment against a whole people.”

Page 136, 30. help it, not in the sense now common, of pre-
vent it. It is worth while to notice how the scathing flash of
irony, with which the paragraph opens, furnishes the heat and
convincing force with which the orator resumes and welds together

as one the various topics with which he has separately dealt. He had said the same before (p. 108), but now the underlying unity is felt.

35. In these concluding paragraphs Burke addresses himself to those practical arguments alas, too familiar to us all! — which may generally be counted on to bring to terms a politician somewhat too high-minded. If such words as these could be read and taken to heart by all in our country who are to exercise the public trusts of citizenship, we should have a very different condition of things from that which we see all about us.


Upon the conclusion of this speech resolutions were adopted by the meeting, warmly commending Mr. Burke's conduct in Parliament, and asking him to present himself as a candidate for the coming election. Having received this indorsement, Mr. Burke announced his candidacy in the usual manner, and began his

Two days later one of his three competitors fell dead, overcome with the excitement and strain of the contest. Next morning the very morning of the election – Mr. Burke, satisfied that his election was hopeless, publicly withdrew

- " declined the poll” – in a little speech which is fit pendant to the one just read.

It may be found in any complete edition of his works. Through the influence of Lord Rockingham, Burke was at once returned from Malton, and sat for that borough till the close of his political life.


THOMAS, LORD ERSKINE, was born in Edinburgh, in 1750, of a family famous in Scottish history, but at this time sadly reduced in circumstances. He grew to be a lad of much brightness and promise, and his ambition was to enter a learned profession; but the expense of an education could not be met.

At fourteen years of age he was sent to sea as a midshipman; and he spent eleven years of service in the navy and the army before he found it possible to prepare himself for the calling in which he afterwards attained distinction as an advocate and orator. Meantime he had married at twenty, and was struggling to maintain his growing family. At the age of twenty-eight he was admitted to the bar. His first case, coming fortunately not long afterwards, revealed such surprising courage, eloquence, and forensic skill, that his fame and fortune were instantly made. His talents were engaged in the most celebrated trials of those times. In 1793 he entered. Parliament. His brilliant career culminated in 1806, when the dream of his life was realized, and he became Lord Chancellor of England. This honor, however, was not long to be his; for he had to vacate the woolsack in the next year, on the downfall of the Grenville Ministry. His later life again was clouded by poverty and by that idleness to which English etiquette condemns distinguished lawyers who have once reached the highest position open to the profession. He died in 1823, in Scotland, on the only visit he ever made to the native land he had left fifty years before.

The effect of his oratory upon those who heard him was surprising. Into the dull, heavy style of the courts he infused a warmth, a daring, an imaginative play, unknown before his time. His most memorable speeches were delivered before the Court of the King's

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